Variant: Unintentional Cheating
Cheating is wrong, and I refuse to play with cheaters. I really don’t understand the mindset of the cheater. I mean, it’s not like you get anything for winning that game of Thunderstone. But, that’s not what I’m really interested in. I want to talk about the unintentional cheater. Sometimes, someone misunderstands the rules explanation and does something they think is allowed but is actually against the rules. What to do then?
Even if you catch it immediately, it can be a problem. The player may say, “All of my plans were going toward taking this (illegal) action. I would have played my last turn differently,” and that is often very true. Ultimately, it’s their fault for not listening to the rules, so they have to bear the responsibility. That said, it is no fun to get clobbered in a game merely because you were distracted during the potentially lengthy rules explanation. So, as much as possible, I want to let that person redo their last action or turn. As long as it doesn’t entirely change the game state, if they can grab sheep instead of lumber, then that’s fine. If it impacts what other players were going to do, then it gets trickier. I still try to hit the “undo” button as much as possible, but at some point it becomes too cumbersome and counterproductive.
More recently, though, in a game of Dominare we discovered that two of the players were totally (unintentionally) cheating. Many of the agents in your secret society have special powers, but those powers can only be used if that agent is a certain rank or higher. The two players thought that the powers could be used as soon as a numbered game turn occurred. So, they had agents in low ranks using higher powers just because the turns had gone on long enough. We didn’t catch this mistake until turn six of seven. What now?
At this point, there was no way to go back and undo the damage. It had been happening for several turns. Plus, the intertwined nature of Dominare meant that no one could even remember the actions that needed to be undone. Plus, given the game length, no one was excited about replaying the last three turns or so. Rather than just pull the plug on the game, I advocated for continued play. They would have to play with the right rules from that point forward, but it was more important to allow the stratagems of the non-cheaters to come to fruition than to simply terminate the game. After all, it’s just a game. No one had money riding on the outcome.
And, in the end, one of the non-cheaters ended up winning by a single point. So I guess the damage that was done wasn’t too terrible. But, ultimately, I favored completing the game (with the right rules) instead of spoiling it for everyone.
What about you? What do you do once you discover that someone has unintentionally been breaking the rules?